WEST JORDAN, UT, USA U.S. Army SSG, HHC, 2D BATTALION, 503D INFANTRY, CAMP EDERLE, ITALY SAWTALO SAR MTN, AFGHANISTAN 10/23/2007
Ismael Rougle knew. He served in the Army during the Vietnam War and suffered the loss of good friends there.
Fernando Lopez knew. He served in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War and helped write the death certificates for several comrades. And though she liked to pretend otherwise, Nancy Rougle knew, too. Her son feared that this would be his final combat tour and had told her so. They all knew the cost of war.
“But not like this,” sighed Ismael Rougle as he struggled to consider a world without his eldest son, Larry. “No, not like this.”
Ismael Rougle learned Tuesday afternoon that his son, a 25-year-old U.S. Army sniper, had been shot in the stomach and killed in Afghanistan’s volatile Kunar Province. On Wednesday afternoon, the grieving father was bent under the hood of an old truck, his oil-stained hands contorted behind the leaky radiator as he recalled the day his then-17-year-old son had come home to say that he was going to join the Army.
“I’d never suggested it,” said Ismael Rougle, who had served 25 years in the Army. “But he had it in his mind that this is what he wanted to do. And he was so proud.”
That was in 1999. And though Ismael Rougle knew all too well the consequences of war, his nation wasn’t at war.
“I thought it was a good idea,” the 61-year-old maintenance man for the U.S. Postal Service said.
Two years later, in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, Larry Rougle departed for his first combat tour. He was 19. Over the six years that have followed, family members said, Larry Rougle served two more tours in Afghanistan and three in Iraq.
“Six tours,” Ismael Rougle said. “Six.”
Family members say Larry Rougle never complained about being called away from home, not even after his then-wife gave birth to a daughter, Carmin Jade, now 3 years old. He loved the girl more than anything, they said, but remained proud to serve and committed to victory.
Along the way, he confided in his uncle, Gulf War veteran Fernando Lopez, about his passion for fighting, his experiences under fire and his fears about the future.
“Unless you’ve been there during the time when the bullets are flying past, you just can’t know what it’s like,” Lopez said. “So we talked about his various experiences. He would talk and I’d listen.”
When Larry Rougle visited his family in Utah last spring, he told his mother that he was returning to Afghanistan again.
“He told me that he didn’t think that he would be making it home this time,” Nancy Rougle said. “I said, ‘No, no, let’s not talk about it.’ I didn’t want to believe it.”
Back under the hood of the truck, perhaps simply happy for the distraction it presented, Ismael Rougle sighed again.
“Until it is your own family,” he said, “you really don’t know.”